Grammy Award-Winning Silkroad Ensemble to Engage in Three-Year Residency at Holy Cross

Silkroad to engage in a three-year residency on campus, which kicked off with a visit earlier this fall.

Founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and home to the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble, Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world. In addition to being sponsored by Arts Transcending Borders, this was the ensemble's campus debut, though several artists of the collective are no strangers to Holy Cross. In fall 2014 Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato was the first artist-in-residence, where she worked with faculty and students, and performed her piece “My Lethe Story” about her mother’s memory loss with Silkroad Ensemble member and percussionist Shane Shanahan; and ensemble members Kinan Azmeh and Kevork Mourad shared their multi-media project titled “Home Within,” and held workshops with arts students on campus and with students of the Burncoat High School's Arts Magnet Program.

“We have been fortunate to host a number of the Silkroad musicians at Holy Cross during the past four years, and those previous experiences made our organic connection palpably clear as we discovered additional shared values such as humility, passion for learning, interest in sharing, and generosity of spirit,” says Lynn Kremer, director of Arts Transcending Borders and professor of theatre.

The ensemble’s first visit included a session called “Music Along the Silk Road,” which showcased their rich tapestry of musical traditions and collaborative approach to creating music; short pop-up performances in prominent locations on campus; and a meet-and-greet with the College community. They also hosted a new commission workshop on “Falling Out of Time,” a new song cycle by Loyola Professor of Music at Holy Cross and renowned composer Osvaldo Golijov.

“The pairing of Silkroad and Holy Cross may at first glance appear unusual, but what makes this residency special is what we have in common,” says Kremer. “The missions of our organizations have a great deal of overlap: interests in inclusivity and discernment. We are also eager to learn how to apply Silkroad’s experiences on reservations, in schools, in non-profit organizations, and refugee camps to our outreach work in the Worcester community.”

In addition to being members of the Silkroad Ensemble, Pato and Shanahan serve as Silkroad learning advisors.

“The Silkroad Ensemble has been using art to transcend borders since our inception, so we are incredibly excited to be embarking on a long term relationship with an academic institution that so explicitly shares our vision for the world. We can’t wait to collaborate more robustly with the faculty and students at Holy Cross to make our hopeful vision a reality.” says Shanahan.

"It's an honor for me to be back in a place I used to call home,” says Pato. “I couldn't be happier for Silkroad and Holy Cross to start a partnership. Not only because of our shared values, but also for our capacities of connecting dots through social change and the arts.”

During the residency, Silkroad members will work with students and faculty to explore the roles that passion and art can play in learning. The ensemble will design and offer class sessions and workshops that ask participants to think critically about how they encounter difference, and how they can create unexpected connections that positively contribute to the Holy Cross community. They will also offer experiential art-making opportunities designed to encourage Holy Cross students outside of their comfort zones.

The musicians of the Silkroad Ensemble represent dozens of nationalities and artistic traditions, from Spain and Japan to Syria and the United States. Silkroad musicians are also teachers, producers, and advocates. Off the stage, they lead professional development and musician training workshops, create residency programs in schools, museums, and communities of all sizes, and experiment with new media and genres to share Silkroad’s approach to radical cultural collaboration.